25 Feb Success Story: A Change in Heart

Kevin*, his twin brother, and the rest of his siblings were adopted from Bulgaria when they were young. After he and his twin were both removed from their adoptive home due to negative behaviors, they were each placed in separate residential treatment programs. Kevin arrived at the Youth Opportunity Center in the fall of 2019, and his pattern of destructive and negative behaviors continued. 

In fact, within months of his placement at the YOC, Kevin was on the brink of removal. Encouraging other residents to participate in negative behavior, becoming aggressive and struggling to follow along with program expectations and staff directives meant Kevin was not progressing in his treatment and was no longer benefiting from his placement at the YOC. At its peak, Kevin’s negative behaviors were requiring intervention on a daily basis.

Not to be deterred, staff continued to work with Kevin to build a strong relationship. As with so many kids at the YOC, Kevin struggled to build trust with staff and counselors. Eventually, Kevin transitioned into a different program at the YOC and began to build rapport and trust with the staff. Communication with Kevin regarding his twin brother’s progress motivated Kevin to change his behaviors and begin to hold himself accountable for his actions. 

Working with his program team leader, Kevin willingly made a behavior accountability chart, further motivating him to make good decisions and stay out of peer negativity. Once he began to demonstrate positive progress, Kevin’s confidence was bolstered, and he realized a more permanent change in attitude was possible. 

“Kevin is now hopeful about his future and has been reflecting on the hard work he’s put in to get where he is now in his treatment,” said Rahsaan McKell-Jeffers, Kevin’s counselor at the YOC. 

With this shift in attitude, Kevin became not only more productive in his treatment – now edging closer to completing his treatment and eventual release – but he also became a role model to his peers in the program. No longer is Kevin encouraging negative and destructive behaviors. Now, Kevin encourages others to make better decisions, to stay on track, and to do everything they can to further their treatment and complete the program themselves. 

“Kevin has really turned things around and has become a role model to his peers,” said Joanna Todd, YOC Residential Program Director. “He has come a long way from where he was.”

While the details of his release and future are still in planning, Kevin is excited about the prospect of reunification with his twin brother (who is doing well in his own respective treatment) after release. Kevin is an amazing example of how with persistence, support and encouragement every child is beyond capable of a true change in heart. 

*Names have been removed to protect the identity of the resident.

This story is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2021 YOC Foundations newsletter.